The bookstore is calm and warm when I pass on a cold and cloudy late fall day. The two employees at the sales counter, who happen to be the owner and the inventory specialist, add to the warm atmosphere with a cheerful welcome. My attention is drawn to a prominent copy of Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda (featured in the February 2021 issue of this magazine).
“This book is awesome! Did you know that there is four Memphians with stories in it? Asks Jeremee DeMoir, a Memphian, educator, lifelong reader, author and owner of Bluff City’s newest bookstore, DeMoir Books & Things.
Attractive and knowledgeable – that’s two points from the start. I admit that, yes, I know; in fact, I interviewed three of the four Memphiens, and I’m here a bit early to take some photos to go along with the magazine report we discussed. Jeremee introduces me to her husband, Jordan Mays-Demoir; we are discussing Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The water dancer, also on display, and how the novel is the perfect synthesis of Coates’ non-fiction work on race in America and his more fantastic (how would we say “wonderful”?) work?) Black Panther and American captaina comics.
And this is perhaps the best introduction to DeMoir Books – within minutes of walking through the little shop on White Station Road, I was immersed in a conversation about comics, local writers, and some of the best writing in non. -fiction to adorn the pages of Atlantic. Anyway, I had been in the store for less than five minutes and already felt like a regular.
Children of books
DeMoir’s journey to owning a local bookstore began before he even took his first steps. “When my parents found out that they were pregnant with me, my mom immediately went to her local bookstore and found these different amazing baby books and nursery rhymes, and she started reading me. in utero. So by the time I was physically in the world, the journey continued, ”DeMoir says. “I fell in love with reading.
This love is a driving force for DeMoir, for whom the art of storytelling is a passion close to his heart. He still cherishes his childhood books and has even managed to keep some of them. And, of course, it went from nursery rhymes to more stimulating material.
“My favorite childhood book growing up was called Willie Jerome. It’s actually by a local Memphis author – Alice Faye Duncan, ”DeMoir says, giving a brief plot summary. Willie loves to play the trumpet and practices a lot, sometimes much to the chagrin of his neighbors. But the passion of the young musician gives results, as his practice makes him perfect. Eventually, her play helps soothe her family members and some of her neighbors who are stressed out. It’s no surprise that a book by a local author, on how a passion for the arts can stir up a stir in the community, is one of DeMoir’s favorites. Willie Jerome tells a story that is not unlike that of the bookseller. But more on that soon.
“I’ve always been an avid reader, but I wasn’t always the strongest writer, until I hit seventh grade. That’s when I met the most amazing creative writing teacher in college. [Jonathan Moore], who helped me harness my imagination and showed me that writing words can literally shape and change your world. They ended up inspiring me to become a teacher to do the same. – Jérémie DeMoir
“I finally fell in love with Alex Haley’s Queen, which is his sequel to Roots», Continues DeMoir. “As an adult, I go back and forth between fiction for young adults and fiction for adults. There are so many amazing authors out there right now that I really, really enjoy. He rolls out a list of names including Angie Thomas, George M. Johnson, TomiAdeyemi.
“I am part of the Harry potter generation. Harry potter started when I was a kid, ”DeMoir says. “As Harry got older, so did I. The first three books are considered children’s books, but the rest are considered YAs. “
DeMoir believes that the gradual change in tone and level of reading in the Harry potter series prepared his generation to read more widely. As readers who fell in love with the older and lighter Potter books revisited them, even though they were older, they learned that reading outside of their specified age range was not. not a crime. That, along with the increased diversity of characters and writers, is what has helped the young adult subgenre flourish. “You have to have that open mind to the advancement of literature,” says DeMoir. “It just broke the wall of what was acceptable or appropriate based on age, religion, race, creed or whatever.”
“The thing with YA fiction – and the YA genres, period – is over the past five years it’s grown to be such a diverse universe that’s not just about teenage stories, but everyone with a story, ”DeMoir said. “The YA genre has been inundated with diversity and inclusion and so many LGBTQIA + topics and so many stories that weren’t necessarily represented at the time in adult fiction literature – or maybe it wasn’t. did not necessarily reach the masses.
“It speaks to the teenager who still lives in us and who may not have had the chance to grow to the end. It gives us a chance to go back and relive those moments we could have had, those shoulda, coulda, woulda moments.
Reader, teacher, author, bookseller
“I have a background in education, so I spent a lot of my postgraduate years teaching English and creative writing,” says Demir. I will always have this literary training in mind. Our goal as educators is to expose students to the world that should be around them.
Kids feel pressured to read books for school, but classics don’t always speak to kids, which sometimes makes them sour when they read. “It gives a very limited reach,” DeMoir says. “The world is changing, and we have to change with the world and present a new literature that can be not only global, but also meaningful to people. It’s super important to find stories that speak to the child of 2021, to the adult of 2021. “
DeMoir’s mission is to help meet the wants and needs of everyone in his community. This mission is, he believes, both the founding principle of the bookstore, and also a vital end for fiction. “It’s so amazing to be able to open Angie Thomas’ book – well, any of her books; you know she’s from Jackson, Mississippi, so she’s on the street – and she can just step into a contemporary world that looks like ours today. And then jump into Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of blood and bones which takes us to an imaginative world in Africa, ”says the bookseller, his voice tinged with excitement. “It gives us all the opportunity to get away from it all while discovering the world outside of what we usually experience. This is how we become well-rounded people. This is how we become agents of literacy.
DeMoir’s journey to becoming a literacy worker may have started before birth, but that doesn’t mean the path has been linear. He’s been a reader, educator, author, and bookseller, but even someone as passionate about his goal as DeMoir sometimes needs help along the way. “I’ve always been an avid reader, but I wasn’t always the strongest writer until I hit seventh grade,” he recalls. “It was then that I met the most amazing creative writing teacher in college.” [Jonathan Moore], who helped me harness my imagination and showed me that writing words can literally shape and change your world. They ended up inspiring me to become a teacher to do the same.
“It’s my last week, actually,” DeMoir tells me. After several years in the classroom, teaching both English and creative writing, he realizes that he has to devote more and more time to the bookstore. “I just had this idea to feed the other half of me, who was reading. So I had to make DeMoir Books a reality.
The book store
See a need in the community and meet it. It was ultimately, along with the aforementioned long-standing love for literature, that brought DeMoir Books & Things to life.
“I taught in underserved communities that didn’t even necessarily have access to a library in the community,” says DeMoir. “At first, I started by donating books, because I have too many of them. But donating books to libraries did not fully satisfy the urge to share a passion.
“I love books and wanted to share my love of reading and writing with people, not just my students but people in general,” he continues.
“We have a local writers section for people who might have a story but may not have a publisher behind them to put their books on the shelves. So we are giving them the opportunity to do so. One thing I say constantly is that everyone in life deserves a place at the table. We all deserve to be seen physically.
The willingness to help the community, to provide table seats, has served DeMoir well. Starting a new business during a global pandemic isn’t exactly easy. “I was super terrified,” DeMoir admits. “As we were getting ready to start with all the permits, they shut down the city.” His family were also nervous and told him to be careful, and he was, but DeMoir wouldn’t be dissuaded. He made sure he had an online presence, able to order books that the store didn’t actually have on the shelves right now, so he could still make sales if there was another. quarantine. And, in keeping with the community’s mindset, whatever the tenure at the moment, DeMoir Books & Things requires customers to wear masks to enter the store. “It’s been a yo-yo process,” he says of the shifting mandates.
The care paid off. DeMoir says they get foot traffic from White Station Middle School, “and the weekends are really great.”
They also host game nights, movie nights every two weeks, run a loyalty program for customers, and have organized book signings for local authors in the store’s event space. “It’s been a rewarding thing,” DeMoir says, and as an author himself he knows the value of seeing his work come to fruition. “People came in and booked the event space so they could have their own movie nights with family and friends because of Covid and they don’t necessarily feel safe going to the theater. It’s been a great community place since we opened our doors. Our calendar has turned! We have certainly been busy.
“Every day hasn’t been super crazy, but every day is something. I’m grateful for that.
DeMoir Books & Things is located at 739 White Station Road, Memphis, Tennessee 38122; 901-464-0395. Learn more about stay-books.square.site.